In this ever-increasing age of digital distraction and obsession, Vashon resident Barbara Dusty Gustafson is offering a timeless alternative: a Vashon scavenger or treasure hunt. Her recently published book, “Treasures of Vashon-Maury Island, A Photographic Scavenger Hunt for All Ages,” is intended to be an enjoyable interactive pursuit that has nothing to do with smart phones.
“The whole idea is to have fun for all ages, to test their mettle to find or know these things about Vashon,” Gustafson said. “I am a Luddite; it distresses me to see everyone engaged with their phone. This is my attempt to get folks to look around.”
Gustafson’s book is just the playful impetus to do so. Loaded with her photographs of beloved Vashon icons, the book also features little-known island treasures.
On the even-numbered pages of the spiral bound book are an array of colorful images of unidentified objects or places — all Vashon treasures — taken in the same area. The odd pages reveal their location along with a bit of information. A map of Vashon with a key that identifies each photograph are located at the back of the book.
Like Gustafson’s first book, “Vashon ABCs: An Exploration of Shore Life,” her second book has an educational and environmental bent as well, which is no big surprise coming from a life-long, independent educator.
Gustafson’s focus for the past 20 years has been as a science teacher working with Family-Link, the island’s private and public schools and many of the island’s nonprofits. She’s also an artist known for her artful baskets and was a commissioned artist for one of Vashon Center for the Arts’ auctions.
Lately, the multi-talented author, who’s also worked at Vashon Bookshop for seven years, has been teaching second-graders at Chautauqua to weave baskets using the Native “watch and copy” technique. She arrives dressed as an elder, dims the lights and begins to tell stories as she weaves. The effect has been startling.
“I never had to tell them what to do. They quietly watch my hands,” she said. “I give them the materials, and they start to weave. It has been life changing as an educator. As a science teacher, it is all about questions and answers.”
That same awareness brought about by looking seems to inform Gustafson’s work. She’s both walked and kayaked around the island, always with camera in tow, taking images that are uniquely Vashon. When the community care center asked her to present slide shows for the residents, Gustafson realized many didn’t know much know about Vashon, having moved here because their children live on the island. They don’t experience the island, she said, so she brought the island to them in the form of her photographs, many of which are in the book.
It’s been fun, she said, to hear reactions to the images.
“I’ve met new islanders who say, ‘I’ve seen all these things,’ while some older folks have not,” she said. I’m an educator so I realized I could use the photos to whet appetites. The island is the treasure, but it is full of small treasures that we often just drive by. We are so lucky to be here. My hope is that the book can be a way to have fun and enjoy the natural environment and peacefulness of Vashon.”
“Treasures of Vashon-Maury Island” is $18 and sold at Vashon Bookshop, Vashon Pharmacy and Thriftway.